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Thursday, July 21, 2011
Updated: August 12, 6:19 PM ET
Austen Sweetin brings the sunshine


snowboarding video
Spirit of the COC times: no jewelry, no chains. Just a horse-hair bracelet, hoodie, snowboard, and a hat. Sweetin's life is better than your vacation.

My phone beeps. Today is Austen Sweetin's birthday, the text message reads. Looking up, I see Sweetin rolling up to the Camp of Champions with a big grin, a one-dollar, thrift-store, hawaiian-flowered cap, sunglasses, headphones, and no jacket.

Even though it's July in Whistler, the weather is dark and snowy, and Sweetin's rocking a long hoodie -- its sleeves are stretched out and the bottom sags from riding in the storm.

"It's not my birthday," he says, laughing. "It's a joke that started last year. Stevie (Bell) claimed that since I was in Canada, every day should be my birthday." (It's actually April 9.)

He stops to search around for tools, explaining that yesterday his binding broke, and he had to ride through "the sketchiest chunder" one-footed.

"This morning I knocked on Cam (Pierce) and Mario's (Kaeppeli) door forever for a binding because I didn't bring any extra gear. I didn't care about waking them up because Cam was banging on our door at 4 a.m."

Watching the rain drip from the brim of his vacation hat, I laugh, asking, "Did you just do the checklist: Got snowboard? Check. Got hoodie? Check. Jacket? Screw it."

I read that when [Peter Line] was doing interviews for the X Games, he got fired for being too weird. He told them, 'Whatever dude. Go ahead and be normal.' I thought that was the sickest thing in the world.

"Nah, the only time I wore a jacket this whole year was in the backcountry. And the hat? Well, that brings the sunshine," he says, smiling.

"Backcountry? No contests?" I ask.

"I did one rail contest this season, the Paul Mitchell Progression Session, and got second," he says. "I used to do them all the time. They were cool but I got burnt out sitting there and waiting, getting two runs, and then sitting there again for the rest of the day."

"Well, at least you won hair product," I say.

"No need," he says, showing where his hair was shaved by Kurt Heine and Alek Oestreng in Mammoth this past winter when bad-weather boredom sunk in after being stuck in a hotel room for two weeks.

"They took a chunk out of front, so I shaved the top off and rocked that look for two days before I completely shaved it," he says, laughing. "Kurt's cool: All winter long he was bugging me to surf. So after my meniscus knee surgery in spring, Kurt leant me a board, and we did a week long surf trip to the Oregon Coast. So I guess I am a surfer now"

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Austen Sweetin front nose blunts the down rail, saving his jacket-wearing days for the backcountry.

As the bus rumbles along the dirt road over to Seventh Heaven, it's apparent that Sweetin has come a long way since he was that 14-year-old kid living off two hundred dollars a week, slinging contest-won boards in Government Camp and scrubbing dishes to ride at Windells. Tales of lying about his age (saying he was 18 to pick up 20-year-old chicks), getting hog-tied and duct-taped to his bed by his friends, and winning the Bonfire Pipe-to-Pipe skate comp while under the influence (and under 16) abound. But they all seem so disconnected from this person who tells me he quit anything that could lead to trouble the day he signed his first snowboarding contract.

"The last time I was in Whistler this year," says Sweetin, looking out over the Whistler valley from the top of the Glacier, "Andreas, Cam and I hit the Hurley gap. It's huge, and I had to guinea pig it. I was scared, so I hiked up 10 feet higher because I always try and overshoot stuff than to come up short. I cab fived it, cleared the landing by a foot, landed perfectly, and then buckled because it was so flat. Pat Moore cab nined it in Forum's "Against Them," but Devun Walsh owns that jump."

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If it's rainy and overcast, listen to Dirty Gold's "California's Sunrise" and things will get a little brighter. Front disaster on the COC wall.

"Peter Line and Devun are my favorite," says Sweetin, "but I also looked up to Kevin Jones growing up. I had this poster of Kevin sliding the monument rail in Tahoe on my wall for so long. I subscribed to Transworld and Snowboarder since I was eight, and I have all of those magazines in boxes. I keep one on my night stand of Peter Line doing the handplant on the Mammoth wall ride. I read that when he was doing interviews for the X Games, he got fired for being too weird. He told them, 'Whatever dude. Go ahead and be normal.' I thought that was the sickest thing in the world."

Between front boarding the down flat with a camera duct taped to his gloves to get the 'shot', Austin somehow manages to express his interest in music and playing guitar, and tell me about his new leather-goods business -- Yogi -- that he started with two of his homies from Seattle. They cut up leather, engrave it with tools, and stitch it back together to make everything from wallets to laptop cases and backpacks.

As the day unfolds, with skateboarding and paintballing still on the agenda and no signs of him slowing down, Sweetin goes from hitting the wall ride to the halfpipe, rails to sessioning the quarter pipe, proving that even when the weather is crap he has no problem staying motivated.

They don't call him the Golden Child for nothing.